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The Care Inspectorate is a member of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), a group of organisations designated to monitor the treatment and conditions of those people who have been deprived of their liberty.

The NPM’s Eighth Annual Report was published on 20 February 2018. It gives an overview of members’ work monitoring detention across the UK from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 and the NPM’s joint, thematic work on transitions and pathways between different detention settings. 

The NPM was established pursuant to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). OPCAT is an international human rights treaty designed to strengthen the protection of people deprived of their liberty, including requiring each state party to set up a national level body (known as a National Preventive Mechanism) that can support efforts to prevent their ill treatment. The aim of an NPM is to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment from taking place.

Central to OPCAT is the idea that a system of regular, independent visits to places of detention can serve as an important safeguard against abuses, and prevent torture and ill-treatment in places that by their very nature fall outside the public gaze.

Specific requirements of an NPM

To comply with OPCAT, members of the National Preventive Mechanism, such as the Care Inspectorate, must have certain powers. These include the power to:

  • inspect all places of detention
  • access all information relating to detainees
  • interview detainees in private
  • choose where to visit and who to speak to
  • make recommendations based on human rights norms to relevant authorities
  • make proposals and observations on existing or draft legislation.

The Care Inspectorate has these powers in respect of secure care for children. We also work closely with HM Inspectorate of Prisons in Scotland and support some of their inspections.

They recently published Isolation in Detention guidance. The guidance provides a framework that NPM members will apply when examining the issue and making recommendations, and aims to improve consistency of approach. It allows NPM members to identify and promote good and improved practice.

The UK’s National Preventive Mechanism

The UK ratified OPCAT in 2003, expressing its commitment to prevent torture and ill-treatment in places of detention.

The UK’s National Preventive Mechanism was formally designated in 2009 and is now made up of 21 member organisations whose official functions include monitoring and inspecting places of detention.

Across the UK, different detention settings are visited or inspected by different NPM members. The UK NPM is coordinated by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and decision-making is guided by a steering group, which is made up of representatives from NPM members in the four nations.

Each NPM member has a different mandate, powers and geographical remit, and sets its own priorities for detention monitoring as well as contributing to joint NPM priorities.

The Care Inspectorate is actively involved in the UK NPM work, including involvement in three of its four sub-groups:

  • Mental Health Network
  • Children and Young People’s sub-group
  • Scottish sub-group.


The Scottish members of NPM are:

The Scottish sub-group coordinates NPM activities in Scotland, provides support to NPM members, raises the profile of the work of the NPM and improves liaison with the Scottish Government. It is chaired by the Scottish member of the Steering Group, currently the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.